Making Too Much of Moab

Posted by Mark Tubbs
In News & Notes
Tagged Elizabeth George, Ruth
January 16, 2011 @ 9:35 PM

As a husband, I'm grateful and beholden to author Elizabeth George - the Christian women's author, not the mystery writer. I recall the day like it was yesterday when my wife told me she wanted to find a book to help her grow in feminine godliness. She chose A Woman After God's Own Heart by Mrs. George and began to grow and change expontentially, right before my very eyes. Over the next few years she read book after book by Mrs. George, most notably A Woman's High Calling and Loving God with All Your Mind.

Then she read Remarkable Women of the Bible, which surprised me by its overall hagiographic approach. Take the section on Naomi and Ruth, for example. Mrs. George sets up what seems to me a false dichotomy between Naomi and Elimelech's life in Bethlehem and their later life in Moab. If you recall from the Book of Ruth, they had left famine-ridden Judah for Moab, the latter of which Mrs. George describes as follows: "a season of bliss and blessing" and "It was the best of times" and "Those days had truly been sweet!"

I take umbrage with this representation of their life in Moab; neither the text nor history bear out such a facile, superficial reading.

No, the text simply does not support "bliss and blessing" in Moab. True, Noami's two sons found wives in Moab, but they married daughters of an idolatrous nation, which was forbidden by Israelite law. True, food was more plentiful than in Judah, but the despicable religious practices and cultural depravity of Moab must have rendered life uncomfortable (at the very least) for any Israelite with a modicum of religious and/or national sensitivity. Plug "Moab" into a concordance and you will be led to passages about the incestuous origins of Moab, the evil actions of many kings of Moab, prophecies of doom against Moab, not to mention the perpetual state of conflict between Israel and Moab.

Lest I sound like I am taking Mrs. George too much to task, let me also say that this sort of oversight really shouldn't make it past editorial. I wrap up with a resounding endorsement of anything Mrs. George has penned, with one obvious exception. She is accessible, warm, and has the rare ability to make the Bible come alive for the women who read her.